Friday, January 28, 2005

Bipartisan medical marijuana bill filed in Texas

Today Austin Democrat Elliot Naishtat filed HB 658, which would provide an affirmative defense to prosecution in state court for patients possessing medical marijuana and for doctors who prescribe it. House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Chairman Terry Keel, a Republican, also from Austin, will be a joint author.

According to Texans for Medical Marijuana, whose email brings this good news, the bill would:

  • Allow a person who is arrested for possession of marijuana, and who has a bona fide medical condition and a recommendation from his or her physician, to present an affirmative defense to his or her prosecution.
  • Enable Texas jurors to hear evidence and determine whether or not the individual has a valid medical defense. Presently Texas law does not allow jurors to grant an affirmative defense related to the medical use of marijuana.
  • Protect doctors from being investigated solely on the grounds that they discussed marijuana as a treatment option with their patients.
  • Allow police and prosecutors to exercise discretion and save our taxpayer money when law enforcement officers come into contact with a legitimate medical marijuana user. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2003 there were 57,172 people arrested and prosecuted for possession of marijuana in Texas. If 5% (2,858) of those arrested were medical marijuana users, the taxpayers of Texas wasted an estimated $11.6 million dollars to apprehend them!

Help out cancer patients and doctors, and save $11 million -- how can legislators go wrong? After all, 75% of Texans support the idea. Watch this one closely, folks -- bipartisan backing, strong public support: medical marijuana may be an idea whose time in Texas has come. And the gals over at Texans for Medical Marijuana are doing a first-rate job. If you're a Texan and want to get involved, go here to sign up for their informative emails, or check out their website.

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